NEW YORK – On 11 June, an extraordinary collection composed of enameled gold automatons from the pinnacle of Swiss mechanical miniatures will come to auction at the Important Watches sale.
The highlight of the collection is an astounding piece made by Jaquet Droz & Leschot. Made in 1786, the singing bird scent bottle is adorned in rubies, pearls and enamel and features a meticulously painted ivory automaton bird. The 12 mm bird, swivels on its mount while flapping its tail and opening its beak, as a miniature organ contained within replicates the bird’s song.
LE SERIN. JAQUET-DROZ LESCHOT AND FRISARD GENEVA 1786-1787 SOLD TO JAMES COX LONDON 1787. ESTIMATE $800,000–1,200,000.
The organ is sandwiched between two engraved gilt brass plates and is activated by a small pushbutton to the side of the case. Upon activation, the bellows conveys air through a pipe into a chamber connected to a pinned cylinder. The pinned cylinder, while rotating, activates six separate valves, which are connected to the six pipes, three on each side of the case. The entire organ is contained within the flask and surrounds the central pinned cylinder, which when rotated also creates the motion of the automaton through rods below the bird.
On the reverse of the flask there are two glazed apertures, one for the watch dial, and the other for a visible mock balance set with diamonds. This incredible scent flask is an example of horology and automation from the late 1700s of the finest and most complicated quality.
THE FORTUNE TELLER. A GOLD ENAMEL AND PEARL MUSICAL AUTOMATON SNUFF BOX WITH TWO TUNES AND WATCH WITH CENTER SECONDS FOR THE CHINESE MARKET ATTRIBUTED TO PIGUET & MEYLAN, AND THE BOX PROBABLY RÉMOND, LAMY, MERCIER & CO., GENEVA, CIRCA 1815. ESTIMATE $300,000–500,000.
Enamel paintings of incredible quality are represented throughout the collection, however two examples are highlighted by the impressive detail and vibrant colors. The Fortune Teller depicts a necromancer reading a lady’s palm in an Orientalist scene. Within the box lies a musical automaton of a pair playing instruments in a sitting room, with a large watch on the mantle to the top right. The automaton plays two tunes and both figures strum their instruments. The Classical Wedding is another exceptional example of enamel painting with the cover depicting a wedding with nine painted figures in fine detail. When one opens the lid to the base, a three figure musical automaton scene of a workshop is detailed with wheels turning, glass rods rotating to simulate water, and all three figures working at their respective stations.
THE CLASSICAL WEDDING. A LARGE GOLD ENAMEL AND PEARL AUTOMATON SNUFF BOX WITH CARRILLON MUSIC PROBABLY BY JAQUET DROZ & LESCHOT THE BOX MAKERS' MARK OF GUIDON, RÉMOND AND GIDE & CO. AND ENAMEL SCENE LIKELY BY JEAN-ABRAHAM LISSIGNOL GENEVA 1792-1801. ESTIMATE $200,000–300,000.
Each lot within the collection amazes with the intricacies of the paintings and the craftsmanship of the movements. The Swiss Mechanical Marvels presented in the Important Watches sale on 11 June will continue to astound the viewer, and each individual piece is a testament to the incredible genius of horology from the era.